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St Helens Council achieves over 1,600 employee certifications within 4 weeks of implementing Totara Learn

Like many other organisations, St Helens Council must ensure staff are compliant with Data Protection regulations. The Council needed a solution that would enable them to accurately monitor the compliance of 3,000 employees.

Moodle had been used previously but lacked the functionality to manage recurring learning efficiently. Furthermore, the replacement system had to be procured with strict budget restrictions. Totara Learn met these needs and was chosen as the new LMS solution, enabling achievement of the primary objectives within 5 months of implementation.

The Challenge

A key influencer driving the change was the requirement to comply with Data Protection regulations. Failure to comply carries significant fines and the Council faced increasing pressure to achieve high compliance rates throughout its workforce. Key features for a supporting platform were:

  • Recurring training programmes that certified employees;
  • A comprehensive reporting capability;
  • Clear team oversight for managers.

The Council also wanted to utilise the new solution to create a unified learning environment for other areas such as health and safety and new employee induction training. Resulting additional requirements were:

  • High learner engagement;
  • Integration with the bespoke in-house HR system;
  • A managed hosting solution;
  • Low ongoing general and administration costs.
St Helens Council LMS

The Solution

In December 2016 St Helens Council appointed Totara Learn Platinum partners, HowToMoodle, to deliver a learning system to meet their objectives. HowToMoodle recommended a solution based on the open source platform Totara Learn, in a fully managed, ISO 27001 certified hosting environment, removing the burden of hosting in-house. Totara Learn is distributed under an open source licence so there are no per-user licence fees and the Council benefits from a cost-effective subscription for access to the latest versions.

HowToMoodle worked with St Helens to develop a brand-matched design reflecting their corporate website’s look and feel for their learning platform, ensuring a familiar and consistent experience for their users. Comprehensive training from HowToMoodle equipped the eLearning team with the knowledge and skills to maintain a successful and engaging LMS. HowToMoodle’s technical team provide administrator support ensuring they have quick access and answers to questions that arise.

“We chose HowToMoodle due to their extensive provision of services, all of which met with our budget requirements. We like that we can rely on them as someone to go to whenever we need it.” - Anne Kirkman, e-Learning Content & Development Manager at St Helens Council

St Helens carried out a 3-month pilot test on their data protection course, introducing the system to over 1,900 users.

Specific features of Totara Learn that lead to the Council meeting their objectives included:


As Data Protection compliance was the biggest requirement, being able to automate bi-annual recurring certifications was of great value to St Helens. With Totara Learn, they now benefit from the tailored notifications informing employees to complete the training, and reminders when the due date is close, then escalating to management when overdue. HowToMoodle helped fast-track the implementation by guiding the configuration of the certifications and populating previous completion data.


A major must-have for St Helens was having easy to access reports for all levels of management. Totara Learn’s flexible report builder enabled not only the tailoring of reports to specific audiences but also ease of access. HowToMoodle built the required reports for the launch, ensuring all managers had direct access to relevant data, with graphical reports on a bespoke dashboard. An audit focussed dashboard was set up for the Audit team to monitor the compliance rates and another for administrators to monitor usage of the site. The availability of rich, flexible dashboards made for a significant step up in the accessibility of key data.

Courses for SCORM and Quiz:

St Helens created all their learning content in SCORM packages and built compliance assessments using the comprehensive quiz activity in Totara Learn. Using the quiz tool provided the flexibility of multiple interactive question types with extensive feedback, grading and review options, which resulted in 85% of learners passing first time.

HR System integration:

Using Totara Learn’s Hierarchies enabled St Helens to accurately reflect their organisational structure, assigning all users to their role, department and manager, resulting in simplified assignment of job-specific training and targeted reporting. Next steps are to fully integrate their HR system with Totara Learn, enabling the automation of uploading and maintenance of user data.

St Helens Council Totara


Totara Learn has been very well received and evidence reaching the Council’s initial objectives is clear:

Achieving high compliance rates through Certifications and Reporting:

Within the first 4 weeks of launching Totara Learn, over 1,600 employees had successfully completed the Data Protection training and achieved certification.

Cost and Time savings through HR import integration and Dashboards:

  • Direct access to reports and dashboards reduce the need for the Council’s eLearning team to collate and distribute learner information to managers - previously a time-consuming chore.
  • Phase 2 of St Helens site development looks forward to an induction training programme for the Council’s new starters. Totara Learn will make it easy to track progress and, based on results so far, expectations are high regarding time and cost savings.

Improved learner uptake:

Phase 1 has seen the system launch to nearly 2,000 employees with 88% logging in to complete training since its launch 5 months ago.

Dependable, experienced hosting solution:

By hosting their Totara Learn site with HowToMoodle, St Helens have benefitted from over 99.9% site uptime since their launch, as well as additional version upgrades to ensure the site is up to date and secure.

Future goals:

The Council is set to continue their development and success of with Totara Learn. The roll out of Phase 2 includes a full HR system integration and the creation of multiple induction programs for selected areas of the organisation.

Commenting on the implementation, Anne offers some advice; “It is important that you plan and get as much in place before launch – by knowing what you want at the beginning and involving stakeholders from the ground up gives a much greater chance of the project running smoothly and meeting your objectives”.

St Helen's Council learning